Niema Jordan | Mastering the Techniques
Niema Jordan is a freelance writer and editor from Oakland, Calif.
niema jordan, oakland filmmaker, public health, black health, african american health, journalism, health journalism, health writing, film, director, editor, ebony, essence
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About This Project

Essence Magazine

A how-to guide to the four essential cooking methods that can help even the most un-seasoned cook turn out recipes like a pro.


For the latest installment of ESSENCE’S Cooking School, we’ve enlisted chef Jamika Pessoa, Next Food Network Star alum and field correspondent for ABC’s The Chew, to help elevate your expertise with a few key techniques that will take you from student to master chef.


EN PAPILLOTE: To cook in a pouch.

HOW-TO: On a large sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil), place meat, chicken or fish along with selected vegetables. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of water or broth to keep protein moist. Fold paper so ends meet, making sure paper is tightly sealed all the way around. Place on a sheet pan and bake about 20 minutes.



En Papillote Spanish-Style Red Snapper

Makes 4 servings.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

4 red snapper fillets

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup green olives, sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapefto, seeded, diced

3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper

Olive oil


Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, jalapeño and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Season both sides of fillets with salt and pepper and place on parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil on each fillet. Spoon Va cup of tomato mixture on top offish. Fold over paper and crease edges to seal pouch. Place pouches on sheet pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully open pouch to allow steam to escape. Serve directly in pouch.

Per serving: 435 calories, 6g carbohydrate, 60mg cholesterol, 30g fat, 35g protein, 141mg sodium.


Chef Jamika’s Tips

If you use aluminum foil, spray foil with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Cut your vegetables the same size so they cook at the same speed. Add couscous to the veggies and fish to cook an entire meal in one.

Shortcut: Use PaperChef parchment cooking bags (available in supermarkets) so you only have to seal on one side.


BRAISE: To sear at high heat and then slow-cook in flavorful liquid.

HOW-TO: Heat oil or butter in a pan until very hot, place your protein of choice in the pan, and brown meat on both sides. Once browned, transfer meat from pan to braising pot or a heavy-bottom pan.

Deglaze the pan in which you browned your meat by adding cold water, broth or wine to still hot pan and, using a spatula, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of pan. Next put protein back in the pot and place into the oven.



Braised Country-Style Ribs

Makes 8 servings.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

2 pounds country-style beef or pork ribs

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Va cup red wine

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat ribs dry with paper towel. Season ribs with salt and pepper and place in pot, being careful not to crowd them. Brown ribs on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cook in batches if necessary. Set ribs aside. Add the onion, celery and carrots to pot. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook an additional minute. Add tomato paste, and stir well. Pour in wine to deglaze using heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrape bottom of pan. Add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and chicken broth. Return ribs to pan. Cover and place in oven. Braise until ribs are tender, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When ribs are done, strain the cooking liquid through a strainer.

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